When traveling to a daunting opponent’s home field, the most comforting thing for a team can be turning around and seeing a stalwart goalie in its own net. The Michigan field hockey team has relied on junior goalie Haley Jones to be all that and more as she earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors last week for her performances at No. 12 Iowa and Central Michigan, which culminated a successful regular season.
Against the Hawkeyes, Jones recorded 10 saves while setting the tone for Michigan’s key conference victory. She followed up that performance two days later by recording the team’s fifth shutout of the season against the Chippewas. Despite her personal success, Jones views the recognition as a part of the team’s success.
“It shows that our program is doing well this year,” Jones said. “There was a lot of skepticism coming in because we’re young.”
The Wolverines will enter the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State on Thursday riding a six-game winning streak, thanks in large part to Jones.
“She’s been keeping us in every game, making the saves that she needs to make and then making some spectacular saves to help us win the game,” said Michigan coach Marcia Pankratz.
The Wolverines finished their regular season with a 12-5 record, and Jones allowed just 27 goals on the season, only averaging 1.67 goals against per game. Jones chooses to credit the defense for a great deal of her success this season.
“When they’re having a good game, I’d like to say I’m having a good game too,” Jones said. “I’m comfortable with the defense that we have in the backfield right now so it lets me step up and be a little bit more aggressive.”
Pankratz said she feels that having a dependable goalie has a great effect on the rest of the team.
“The players in front of her are playing with a lot of confidence because they know she’s back there playing solid, and that matters a lot,” Pankratz said.
In addition to her success in the net, Jones plays a large role off of the field as a team captain, earning praise from Pankratz for her leadership abilities.
“She works hard every day,” Pankratz said. “She’s responsible and she’s a good person.”
Jones’s stellar play couldn’t have come at a better time for Michigan as it enters the Big Ten Tournament with a potential NCAA Tournament bid on the line. Jones views the Big Ten Tournament as a chance to showcase the team’s improvement throughout the year.
“We’ve come a long way from our first games to where we are now,” Jones said. “I think we’ve grown a lot. Our ultimate goal is to show how much we’ve improved and get the wins.”
If Jones continues her recent streak of play that earned her the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award, the potential is limitless for the Wolverines, Pankratz said.
“When she’s playing well like she is, our team can do amazing things,” Pankratz said.